ORLANDO, Fla. - On Thursday, 81 permanent residents became United States citizens, the same week the Constitution was signed in 1787.
The new citizens come from more than 30 countries. Many have been living legally in the U.S. for between three to five years, a standard time to hold a green card before being allowed to apply for citizenship, according to local immigration officials.
Arun Salamaya was born in Guyana, a small country in South America. Both his wife and young son are citizens and he says today marked the completion of his American family.
Salamaya says Guyana has a tense political climate and he's honored to be able to have the right to vote and have a say in the leadership of his new country. He also says opportunities in his home country can be scarce.
"You're not pushed as much as you are here to graduate high school. You can't easily find a well paying job," Salamaya said.
A local professor also became a citizen Thursday. Dmitry Kolpashchikov has taught at the University of Central Florida for five years where he specializes in biochemistry.
But Kolpashchikov also conducts research with the goal of creating simpler ways to diagnose infectious diseases. He says he wouldn't have the funding or opportunity to conduct his research in his native Siberia.
The new citizens are immediately eligible to register to vote and apply for U.S. passports. They can also petition to bring other family members into the country.
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